Frenchman fights off crocodile in Australia

SYDNEY (AFP) - A French deckhand survived after a crocodile latched onto his head in northern Australia by punching the reptile repeatedly until it let go, a report said on Monday.

Mr Yoann Galeran, 29, had swum out to retrieve a moored dinghy at Nhulunbuy on Sunday evening when the two-metre saltwater croc attacked, grabbing him by the head and rolling him in the water.

His employer, Lisa Heathcote, told the Northern Territory News that Mr Galeran was able to fight off the beast before scrambling to safety aboard the dinghy and making it back to shore.

"He was swimming out and this crocodile has grabbed him by the head and done a roll," she said.

"Then he's just started punching into it and it let him go. Then it came back at him again but he managed to get his hands under its front legs and push it off."

He was rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment to bite marks to his head, neck and shoulders.

A Northern Territory police spokeswoman said: "So very lucky that he managed to swim away. It could have been a lot more dire, the outcome."

Saltwater crocodiles, which can grow up to seven metres long and weigh more than a tonne, are a common feature of Australia's tropical north.

They have been protected since the 1970s and their numbers have increased steadily since, along with the number of human encounters.